Obama Confirms Door Is Open for Prosecution of Authors of Torture Memos

The President hasn’t expressed objection to subjecting senior officials to investigation.

Photo courtesy of President Obama from WDCPIX

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This story first appeared on ProPublica.org.

Last week, we noted that while the administration promised not to prosecute CIA interrogators who acted within the legal limits laid out by the now-released “torture memos,” it made no such promise for the Justice Department lawyers behind the memos. In remarks to reporters today, President Barack Obama reiterated his promise and more clearly suggested that the lawyers who signed off could face legal consequences.

When the memos were released last week, the administration was silent about consequences for the Office of Legal Counsel officials who gave authoritative advice to counterterrorism agencies in those years. Much of that advice was repudiated, in waning months, by the Bush Office of Legal Counsel itself as “not sustainable,” “doubtful,” “not supported by convincing reasoning,” “highly questionable,” “not satisfactory,” “unpersuasive” and/or simply “incorrect.”

Today, the president reiterated that prosecution “would not be appropriate” for interrogators “who carried out some of these operations within the four corners of legal opinions or guidance that had been provided from the White House,” according to the Washington Post.

But Obama expressed no such opposition to subjecting senior officials to investigation or prosecution. While maintaining his general caution against “getting so politicized that we cannot function effectively,” he declined to reject the notion of congressional investigations or criminal prosecution.

“With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general,” he said. If there is going to be “a further accounting,” Congress might consider a bipartisan or independent commission, he suggested.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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